Danny Salazar returned from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday night for the Indians’ rubber match against the White Sox. He was activated on Thursday, filling the open roster spot vacated by Josh Tomlin, who is on temporary family leave (but due to make his scheduled start on Saturday). Salazar was thought to be ready. Instead he lasted one inning.
Usually when you say the pitcher walked the bases loaded, it’s safe to assume that at least one of the runners got there through a hit. Not this game. Salazar walked Adam Eaton to start off the game, then walked Tyler Saladino. He got Melky Cabrera to fly out, then walked Jose Abreau to load the bases. Justin Morneau came up and promptly slapped a double to center field, scoring three runs.
Salazar managed to get out of the inning without giving up any more runs, but that was all the throwing he did from the mound. Kyle Crockett came out to pitch the 2nd inning while Salazar went to the bullpen and . . .threw. It was kind of like Spring Training in August. With their starting pitcher out after one, the Indians didn’t panic. They regrouped.
Mike Clevinger came in and worked four scoreless innings while Cleveland started scraping away at Chicago’s lead, scoring a run per inning using every small ball trick in the book. In the 5th,Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez combined with a double and single, respectively, to give the Tribe its first run. They notched a second run in the 6th with a Roberto Perez single, a ground-rule double from Jason Kipnis, and a single from Francisco Lindor.
Clevinger gave up a double to Tim Anderson to start the 7th and was replaced by Dan Otero. Maybe it’s just me, but Otero always looks worried on the mound. Maybe it’s because he gave up a single to Omar Narvaez, allowing Anderson to score (and driving up Clevinger’s ERA). The Indians answered back in the bottom half of the seventh with a pair of doubles from Abraham Almonte and Rajai Davis to make it a 4-3 ballgame.
The Tribe tied it up 4-4 in the 8th. Mike Napoli walked then advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch by White Sox reliever Nate Jones. Jose Ramirez singled him home. Andrew Miller came out in the 9th inning and reminded everybody why the Indians acquired him: he struck out two and got Jason Coats to fly out. Abraham Almonte started off the bottom of the 9th with a double. Roberto Perez had a Moonlight Graham moment. He came up to bat against White Sox reliever Jacob Turner. Turner threw a passed ball by and Almonte advanced to 3rd. Rookie Tyler Naquin came off the bench and did exactly what a serious candidate for Rookie of the Year ought to do: had his first career walk-off plate appearance with a high fly ball hit deep enough into centerfield to allow Almonte to score. There you have it: a 5-4 Indians win.
A few quick takeaways from this game:
- Smart base running can help you win ballgames.
- You don’t always need to hit home runs to win ballgames.
- One run per inning can win ballgames.
- I forget that Jose Ramirez is only 23 years old. It feels like he’s been around for ages.
- Abraham Almonte has redeemed himself.
- The decisions might seem weird sometimes, but Terry Francona almost always makes the right call.